After her first year on the Charlottesville City School Board, Lisa Larson-Torres knew she would seek a second term.
“There’s too much to learn, too much effort to learn it and there’s too much important work that I am vested in and committed to,” Torres said.
Torres, who is currently serving as chairwoman of the board and is a home healthcare physical therapist, is the second person to announce plans to run. She was first elected in 2017. This election cycle, three spots on the seven-member Charlottesville School Board are up for grabs.
One current board member, Juandiego Wade, has already announced that he’s running for City Council. Board member Leah Puryear’s term also expires this year, and she hasn’t announced whether she’ll seek reelection.
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Emily Dooley, a real estate agent and former teacher, announced her campaign for School Board last month.
Torres said she’s proud of the steps the division and board have taken to improve equity and is excited to work on the division-wide equity committee. Torres is on a subcommittee that’s working to create a data dashboard.
“I ran on a platform of advocating, accountability and being attentive,” Torres said in her announcement. “I continue to apply these as lenses in my work on the board, especially with my focus on equity, which is more important than ever as we transition back to face-to-face instruction.”
Next month, the division will restart in-person classes for preschoolers through sixth-graders. Torres said reopening the schools could mean assigning students to new teachers depending on who returns to buildings and who remains all-virtual.
“That’s tough, and that’s an equity issue,” she said. “That’s concerning to me.”
Torres said it’s also important to not forget the students learning at home.
“There’s so many unanswered questions, and I don’t want to lose sight of that,” she said.
Helping students and employees recover from the last year will be a focus of the rest of Torres’ first term as well as her second term, if she is re-elected, she said.
“Focusing now on what’s our recovery plan as far as getting kids back in and taking care of the teachers,” Torres said. “This is going to be really hard, this transition, and I’m going to continue to say it at every meeting that I can that parents need to be patient. This is going to be traumatic.”
Priorities in a second term would also include the reconfiguration of the city’s middle schools, a long-planned project that remains in limbo, navigating the School Board’s relationship with the City Council as well as continuing to improve equity and student literacy levels.
Torres was originally inspired to run for School Board because of her daughter’s struggles with reading. Her daughter graduated Charlottesville High School last year.
“That was such a huge and important part of who I am as a parent, advocating for my child throughout her tenure in the public school system,” Torres said.
Last year, the division started to overhaul its approach to teaching young children how to read, and Torres said she’s excited about those changes, which include measures she advocated for.
“The one thing that is hard, but that I’ve learned as a parent and even as a School Board member, is unfortunately changes that really could benefit all kids don’t happen quickly, and literacy is a huge example of that,” she said.